Since Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant’s death last month, fans and customers have been paying tribute to the fallen NBA star by dining at his favorite Mexican restaurant, El Camino Real. According to ABC-7, Bryant was a regular at the Fullerton restaurant for over 20 years.
Bryant’s connection to Latino fans and culture is a true Southern Californian experience. Los Angeles Times writer Gustavo Arellano noted how many local Latinos “saw themselves and their culture in him: The work ethic. The marriage to a Mexican-American woman. The devotion to his daughters. His better-than-not, if Italian-inflected, Spanish.”
Bryant’s wife Vanessa reportedly introduced him to her childhood favorite restaurant, El Camino Real, when the pair were first dating. Bryant’s favorite dishes were said to be the carne asada tostada, carnitas, and flan, complete with a cantaloupe agua fresca.
According to ABC-7, manager Rodolfo Garcia says Bryant “was the best customer. Bryant also insisted that staff “Treat me like a normal person, don’t treat me like a star.” That even meant standing in line with everyone else, and chatting up customers while there.
Bryant learned Spanish so he could communicate with the Southern California Latino fanbase (including the staff at El Camino Real) and out of respect for his wife and her family. Fox 11 reported that if El Camino Real lacked seating, staff would make a private table in the back of the restaurant.
The Bryant’s were also regulars at Javier’s in Newport Beach. According to Vice, Javier’s owners shared how Bryant was considered as a family member, and was a “true gentleman.”
If El Camino Real looks familiar to Eater LA readers, this publication wrote about “cilantro papi” a few years back. El Camino Real employee Rogelio Rivera chops cilantro in an efficient and hypnotic manner.
So many people messaged me on Snapchat on how satisfying this video was. Twitter, I’m gifting you the video of Rogelio chopping cilantro. pic.twitter.com/tvY5m5ffU7— Rebecca Castañeda (@atomic_era) January 4, 2018